European Road Race Championships Preview – Glasgow 2018

Now into its third year as an event for the elite peloton, this edition will see the riders head to Glasgow for what is a very similar route to the Commonwealth Games in 2014. In 2017 though, it was a race for the sprinters with Alexander Kristoff coming out on top, beating Viviani and Hofland. 

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All three are expected to ride this year but will we see a similar result? Let’s take a look at what is in store for the peloton over the course of the afternoon.

The Route

Facing them are 16 full laps of the 14.8km or so long course, totalling roughly 235km of racing.

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As with the women’s preview, you can view a profile that I made of the circuit here.

Glasgow RR Circuit

It’s quite a surprisingly rolling course with there also being a lot of turns given the nature and layout of Glasgow streets.

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There are several small hills and drags, more notably in the middle of the course. The first one goes past the University buildings, averaging 5% for 500m before a quick descent and a 300m kicker at 8% up Great George Street.

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That’s arguably the toughest climb on the course and will be one of the places where the puncheurs will hope to put some pressure on. There are another couple of few hundred metre drags at roughly 3% or 4% littered throughout the following kilometres but it will be tough to create anything there.

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The last climb of the day is on Montrose Street and averages 4.3% for 450m, albeit the first 170m of the climb is at 6%, but as you can see on the image above, it looks a little steeper than that. We saw in the women’s race it can be a real grind and it is the last place on the course for any puncheur looking to get a gap on the group.

Once over the top there is 1.5km of descent before a flat final 2km run to the line, which is fairly technical; with a quite turn at only 300m to go.

It is a great circuit with lots of places for action but it also leaves things finely in the balance. Reminds me a lot of the Canadian one-day races we get at the end of the season!

Weather Watch

It’s Scotland so yeah…

Who knows what we’re going to get and expect all four seasons in one day – just like it was for the Commonwealth Games. The forecast a few days ago had it nailed on as rain throughout the afternoon but now the chance of rain has slimmed, but we’ll probably still see a little at some point.

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If (when) it does rain, the descents and circuit itself will become a lot more treacherous as there are several tight turns where grip might not be great.

A Lack of Sprinters? 

For a race that could well end in a reduced bunch sprint, there aren’t many sprinters gracing the start list. Although to be fair, we don’t even have a start list to go off of just now so I’m using @CyclingFever‘s list as it should be the most accurate one out there.

Viviani, Sagan, Kristoff and Degenkolb are arguably the “purest” sprinters here, with the likes of Colbrelli, Trentin, Cort and Coquard probably hoping for a more reduced gallop to the line. That being said, it will be difficult to drop the first two on the list with the way they have been riding recently!

Plenty of nations arrive here with several attacking options so it will be interesting to see how they approach the race – as most will no doubt leave the chasing throughout the day to Slovakia, Norway and Italy.

Belgian Bullishness

One team who look set up to ride an aggressive race are the Belgians. In their squad they Stuyven, Van Avermaet, Van Aert and Meurisse to name a few.

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I’m intrigued to see how they approach the day as Stuyven could be kept in reserve in case of a potential sprint but given how well he has been going this season the short sharp climbs should be of no real danger to him. Will the team just constantly be on the attack in the closing 80kms? I really hope so! It looks though as if VA² will be their biggest threats for a late attack, with both in great form at the moment. Van Avermaet was sublime in the Tour but just couldn’t match the pace of the best climbers where he had to eventually settle for 4th. The shorter, punchier ascents should be to his liking. I would be very surprised to not see him on the attack on Sunday – unless of course he has been given the job of marking Sagan. Speaking of which…

How do you stop Sagan?

That is the question everyone in the peloton will be asking before the start of the day. I think only Viviani will be happy coming to the line with him for a bunch sprint whereas almost everyone else would rather he would be distanced somehow. Easier said than done considering just how stupidly strong he was in the Tour. His weakness is his team as he has no one who can support him that deep into the race so he will find himself on his own very quickly. That hasn’t held him back before though and I think we’ll actually see Sagan attacking throughout the afternoon, trying to make the race as selective as possible so he doesn’t have to follow as many moves.

Ultimately though, I think he might be done over by the number of teams not wanting to drag him to the line. A bold claim on a course that suits him perfectly but I don’t think we’ll see Sagan win on Sunday…

A Trio of Contenders

As always, I don’t like to have a massive list of riders who could have a chance of a result on Sunday because I could easily write about 20 or so guys based on different scenarios. So here are three to watch as they will no doubt do something exciting before fading at the end!

Wout van Aert.

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Fresh off of what was a fairly comfortable GC win in Denmark, the Belgian arrives in Glasgow having specifically targeted the event. Like quite a few riders at this race, he will no doubt relish the short punchy hills on the course but he will also like the technical nature given his CX background. There were question marks about him this season when he rode some of the Spring Classics: would the distance be too much? Nope, was the answer, as he finished 9th then 13th in Flanders and Roubaix respectively. He’ll probably be given a free role tomorrow and it would be unwise for team’s to give him much leeway in the closing 20kms.

Matej Mohoric. 

What a season the Slovenian is having! After his “breakthrough” year in 2017 where he won a stage in the Vuelta and a one-day race in Hong Kong, Mohoric has gone from strength to strength and has picked up 4 wins in 2018 already. Just shows what he can do now that he has finished his studies and can focus on cycling 100%. A former Junior and U-23 World Champion, he won’t be scared of the course tomorrow. One of the few guys who will relish the potentially tricky descents, will his risk taking and famous top-tube pedalling style see him to victory?

Magnus Cort.

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The Danes seem to be in a cycling revolution at the moment with several top-tier riders coming through the ranks. Cort has taken three wins so far this season and they have all been done in an impressive manner. His win in Oman was from a reduced sprint after a hilly circuit, before he out sprinted Van Avermaet up a short climb in Yorkshire. Both of those were topped by his performance in the Tour though when he managed to win from the breakaway on a day that featured a Cat-1 climb not too far from the finish. The streets of Glasgow should be no issue for him if he has continued that form! Almost like Sagan in a way, it will be interesting to see how he approaches the race: does he attack or sit in? We saw at the Worlds last year that he was in the peloton in the final 3km but rather than wait for the sprint he risked it all and attacked. A move that was ultimately doomed. He is certainly a danger here though.

Prediction

You know where this is going, don’t you?

Matej Mohoric to continue his sparkling year with an incredible win, timing his attack perfectly and leaving everyone in his wake.

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I think the reduced bunch sprint we saw in the women’s race has somewhat masked the difficulty of this course, after all, we could have had two riders arrive a minute ahead if there wasn’t confidence and communication issues between the Dutch! With team-mates at a minimum for many of the contenders, I can see the final few laps being very difficult to control.

Betting

I plan on being at the race myself so come say hi if you see someone standing around the Montrose Street area looking terribly hungover (I’m going out with friends on Saturday night).

Who do you think will win and in what manner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

Dubai Tour 2018 Stage 1 Preview; Skydive Dubai › Palm Jumeirah

GC Overview

The annual battle in the desert between the sprinters returns this week with 5th edition of the Dubai Tour, and boy, do we have a strong field here!

Kittel, Cavendish, Viviani, Groenewegen, Degenkolb/Nizzolo, Kristoff, Bouhanni, Mareczko, Cort Nielsen and Colbrelli all will start the race, and they’ll all hope to get one over their rivals early on in the year.

Since the change in format after the 2014 edition (that had a TT to open), the GC battle has often came down to the sprinters being able to pick up bonus seconds coupled with their ability to follow home the puncheurs on the Hatta Dam. 2015 and 2016 saw Cavendish and Kittle take enough stage wins/secure enough bonus seconds to hold on for the overall title. While last year saw the Hatta Dam stage cancelled due to high winds, which made it more of a walk in the park for Kittel than what might have been.

This year, the riders will have one more stage to contend with which theoretically makes it even more likely that a sprinter will win the GC. However, given that this is the strongest field that we’ve seen here since the races inception, there is a chance that the stage wins will be spread around enough that a puncheur could sneak the overall win.

Nonetheless, I still think we’ll see a sprinter take the crown.

That man will be Viviani.

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With some racing already in his legs, he should come to this race sharper than a lot of his rivals and that could play a big part throughout the week. Furthermore, with a win to his name already and a string of solid performances down in Australia, he will be buoyed by confidence. I think being freed from the shackles of Sky really helped him and we saw a big change in his performances towards the end of last season when he knew the move to QuickStep was confirmed. Having a team that believes in you makes a massive difference for a sprinter and it clearly has helped the Italian. Some of the Watts he was putting out in Australia were incredibly impressive and I think he’s transforming back to the Viviani that showed so much promise in his early years at Liquigas. Consequently, that means he can actually climb reasonably well and get to some finishes that you might not expect, i.e. his second in Cadel’s Race, or Hatta Dam. QuickStep’s record in this race is remarkable, having won it for the past three years, and I fancy them to make it four in a row this time around.

Vai Vai Viviani!

Will he secure the win on the opening day though? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders on Stage 1.

The Route

Pretty much a carbon copy of last year’s opening day.

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There’s almost no point of me posting any of the stage profiles this week as they’re all flat! The more interesting thing about the stage is the final run.

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The riders come out of a tunnel at roughly 6km to go, before making their way towards the end of the Palm. This marks a fairly tight roundabout and once they are through that point, it is a 3km drag race for the sprint teams. The roundabout can be sketchy and last year’s race saw Colbrelli fall here and ruin any chance of victory.

Considering the distance from the roundabout to the finish line, it is possible for teams to move their riders up in that time. However, you certainly want to be in the first third of the peloton.

It is hard for a team to assert complete control at the front of the peloton and we’ll more than likely see surges from different trains in the closing couple of kilometres.

Normally the riders would be concerned with the wind on this stage, but the forecast is fairly benign with a 10km/h left to right cross-wind predicted for the closing sprint. Nothing too drastic, but coming from the downwind side might just present an opportunity for a rider to surprise. Conversely though, a strong lead-out could hug the right hand side of the road, forcing any competitor into the wind.

Contenders

As I’ve mentioned above, we’re treated to a long list of sprinters here so I’ll try to keep this bit short-ish, otherwise we could be here a while!

Marcel Kittel.

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Winner of this stage last year, it will be interesting to see how he gels into his new team and lead-out train. Katusha are certainly weaker than QS and with Kittel preferring a late dash to the line, pouncing in the closing kilometre a lot last season, I’m not sure the likes of Haller and Zabel have the speed to do that. We’ll see, but I’ll be watching with interest.

Elia Viviani.

The form rider here and my GC favourite. He was very strong in the Tour Down Under and was rewarded with a great stage win as a result. QuickStep bring a team with them here that is built around the Italian. With the power they have, we should see a dominant blue train in the closing kilometres. Can Viviani continue his good form?

Dylan Groenewegen.

Still only 24, the young Dutchman had another solid season last year where he picked up 8 wins, including the iconic sprint along the Champs-Élysées at the Tour. He started his season with a second place on GC here last year and will be looking to go one better this time. With a team dedicated to him, he should be positioned well going into the sprint, and it will be up to him to deliver.

Mark Cavendish.

You can never rule out Cavendish. I did at the 2016 and he absolutely blitzed that, before dropping out to focus on the Olympics. It is fair to say that 2017 was a bit of a disaster for him though, with only one win all year and a crash in the Tour that ruined his season. He arrives here with a tried and tested lead-out train and I’m sure he’ll want to come out of the blocks firing in 2018; reminding everyone that he is still one of the fastest guys in the peloton.

John Degenkolb.

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Having already started his season in Mallorca, Degenkolb has an advantage over some of his competitors in that sense. Furthermore, with two wins to his name, he already has more wins this year than in all of 2017. Trek also bring Nizzolo with them so it will be interesting to see the dynamic between them, but given that Degenkolb has won on Hatta before, I imagine they’ll go with him here. Can he make it 3 wins from 3 starts in 2018?

Alexander Kristoff.

Having moved from Katusha in the winter, where he spent six years of his career, it will be interesting to see how he gets on in his new UAE Emirates team. There will be pressure on the Norwegian to perform in what is a home race for the squad, but his team doesn’t look the best. A lot of pressure will be on the young shoulders of Ganna and Consonni to position him well, which could be his downfall. I’m sure he’ll be disappointed to see it won’t be a headwind sprint either! I think we might see something from him later in the race, but not on the opening day.

Nacer Bouhanni.

The enigmatic Frenchman arrives here with Cofidis receiving an invite to the race for the first time. When he wants to be he is lightning fast but more often than not he is too busy scrapping for someone’s wheel way down the order, before settling for a top 8 finish. If his attitude has improved and that is a big if, then he could have a really good season. The Cofidis management has had a change of approach and seems to be giving him some tough love an I’m intrigued to see how that works. I would not be surprised to see him first or fifteenth.

Sonny Colbrelli.

2017 was a good year for the Italian and his move up to World Tour level was a success, winning a stage of Paris Nice. I’m not sure his raw pace is up to the standard of some of the guys here and he would probably prefer a tougher day out in the saddle, but you never know.

Jakub Mareczko.

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Already with two wins under his belt at the famous Sharjah Tour towards the end of January, he’ll arrive here with confidence. What? You’ve never heard of it? Tut tut. To be fair, all he had to beat was Coquard and some sand so we can’t really take much from it. Nonetheless, I do rate the Wilier rider and he has the speed to compete on very flat days. He’s still a tier or so below the best riders, but given he’s been in the Emirates for a few weeks now, that might be of an advantage to him.

Magnus Cort Nielsen.

Another rider who moved in the winter, he’ll want to impress for new team Astana. On paper, he has the power and climbing ability to “do a Degenkolb” and challenge on the Dam, but a crash in training in December might have halted his build up to the season. Like Colbrelli, he would prefer a few more lumps and bumps, but he can’t be discounted entirely.

Prediction

Pffff, pick a name out of a hat!

Viviani has the form, but I think he might fall short on the first day. Instead, I’ve been drawn towards Cavendish for this opening stage.

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He’s spent a bit of time in the Emirates recently and was out there towards the end of January as an ambassador for Abu Dhabi Tour. Now, I’m unsure if he has just stayed there since, but he’s definitely been out since the 2nd of February and I think that shows some intent to go well on his part. Furthermore, he is playing down his chances and form in the press, which is normally when he ends up going well!

His big goal for the year is to get closer to Merckx’s Tour de France stage win record, but I imagine he will want to hit the ground running after a quite frankly awful 2017 by his accounts, mostly for confidence reasons. Although I don’t think he lacks that…

He’s a racer and with a tried and tested lead-out, he has a good chance of surprising on the opening day.

Betting

3pts WIN Viviani for GC at 9/2 with Bet365

1pt EW Cavendish for Stage 1 at 9/1 with SkyBet

4pts Viviani to beat Groenewegen for Stage 1 at 1/1 with Bet365

1pt Double on Viviani ov Groenewegen & Degenkolb ov Kristoff at 2.66/1 with Bet365.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? We have a plethora of sprinters to choose from so it should be an exciting week of racing. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 21 Preview; Arroyomolinos -> Madrid

Today’s Recap

We did get a fairytale ending after all, with Contador winning the stage atop the mythical Angrilu.

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It was a classic performance from the Trek rider as he put on an aggressive climbing masterclass. He certainly will be missed as a rider, especially as his type seems to be disappearing over the past few years.

Sky put on a dominant display behind, with Poels and Froome finishing on the day’s podium. The result means that barring anything incredibly bizarre happens tomorrow, the Brit has won his first Vuelta title.

It makes him the first rider to win the modern Tour-Vuelta double, and the first since Pantani to complete a double. Quite remarkable!

I bet Froome’s parties aren’t as good though…

With the GC battle over, it is time for the sprinters to have their time in the spotlight tomorrow.

The Route

Zzzzzz.

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Featuring a zzzz circuit.

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I could go on and pretend that there is more to this stage than meets the eye but in the words of Skepta; “that’s not me”.

We could see a late attack stick if some of the sprint teams mess around with the chase duties. Modolo and Lampre (UAE) are here so a Giro cock-up could always be on the cards.

But no, it will be a processional stage followed by a sprint. Simples.

Contenders

Trentin.

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The best sprinter here so far, he also has the added incentive of trying to win the Green jersey too. However, tomorrow’s easy run in looks the least suited to the Quick Step rider who would prefer a trickier finish. Nonetheless, the form is clearly there so he most likely has to start as favourite.

Theuns.

Sprinter turned key hilly domestique for Contador over the past few weeks, the Belgian has performed his duties ably. Will the favour be returned tomorrow? Most likely! He is fast and with De Kort to guide him into position, he’ll be a threat.

Modolo.

Has been a bit meh recently but can’t be discounted in this field. He does seem to go well at the end of a GT.

Cort Nielsen.

The final sprint stage and the first day that the Dane will get a chance to go for the win. He took this day last year so I guess he has some course form. He made the break on a few of the more rolling days so his power output must be fairly solid. A dark horse?

Blythe.

Could Aqua Blue get two wins this Vuelta? Blythe isn’t the fastest sprinter in the world, but in this field and at the end of a Grand Tour then we do often get surprise results.

Van Asbroeck and Lobato will be in or around the top 10 too.

Vuelta Picks

A dangerous day for those near the top of the table but thankfully Degenkolb isn’t here to ruin anyone’s chances on the last stage.

Safe PickTrentin.

Pretty self-explanatory; has some form and will be near the head of the results.

Wongshot Pick – Cort

Not tested in the sprints at all this race but he does have the speed to contend.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – DeClerq

Should be doing some work early in the day.

Prediction

Cort to repeat last year’s success!

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Betting

No bet.

Apologies for the really short preview but the Vuelta has worn me down and my enthusiasm for stages like tomorrow is limited enough anyway! Thanks to all of you for reading every day and interacting on Twitter etc. Helps me to keep going through several break days in a row. The season is nearly over but I’ll be back previwing the World’s in no time!

If you’ve enjoyed the previews and want to thank me (cheeky of me, I know) then a beer would be more than appreciated – Buy Me A Beer. But hey, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Anyway,

Those have been My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 13 Preview; Coín -> Tomares

Today’s Recap

A boring breakaway day they said…

Ahead Marczynksi took his second stage win, with Fraile and Rojas rounding out the podium behind.

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However, the majority of the action and excitement came from the GC group. Contador attacked with Roche on the last climb of the day, but the Irishman couldn’t live with the sprightly Spaniard’s pace. He then linked up with Theuns who had been in the break earlier in the day, and the two forged on, working well together. Maybe they were getting some practise in for Duo Normand?

Sky seemed fairly content to set the pace on the front of the peloton, but Froome then had a mechanical and a fall. Although the first mechanical may have been caused by a fall, I’m not too sure! Poels and Nieve dropped back to help him, but it was a tough chase.

Astana, Katusha and Bahrain shared the pace at the front of the peloton, but they became a bit disorganised in the closing few kilometres and allowed the race leader to close somewhat.

With all that said and done at the end of the stage, Contador gained 22 seconds on the “peloton” which itself gained 20 on Froome.

Will we see anything crazy happen tomorrow?

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

By Vuelta standards we have a sprinters stage on the cards!

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We do have some drags and falls in the opening 90km of the day but with over half the stage remaining the riders will be over the worst of it.

It is all about the finish tomorrow.

Of course, this is the Vuelta so we have approximately 9234323 roundabouts in the closing 5kms.

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The road is particularly narrow in parts so being positioned near the front will be crucial.

The many roundabouts will help to string the bunch out but so will the elevation gain in the closing kilometres.

As per, I’ve made a profile of the end of the stage that you can view fully/interactively here.

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According to VeloViewer/Strava, that opening rise we see is 1.14km at an average of 6.1% with the steepest gradient apparently touching 13%. Although if I’m honest, I do think that is a tad generous.

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It does look fairly steep and on the narrow road it could cause some issues for the riders moving up, while also being a great launchpad for someone to go on the offensive.

That section of climbing then crests with 2.5km left of the day.

The final kilometre of the stage averages 2.6%, with the peloton tackling two roundabouts in that time!

Things could get messy but the uphill drag should make the speeds slower and safer. Hopefully.

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We’ll see the peloton tackle the above roundabout at ~450m to go, before the final dash to the line.

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That dash to the line averages 4% for 350m apparently so the “sprinters” that we have here might find it difficult and there could be a few surprises at the line.

How will the stage pan out?

Given the lack of sprinters here and the amount of moves that have made it to the line over the past week, there is a good chance we might not actually see a sprint at the end of the day.

Instead, the break might be left to fight out stage honours.

Although, with it not being a pure sprint. Then a few teams with punchier riders might fancy their chances at bringing the break back to let their guys off the leash in the closing kilometres.

I think it comes down to the attitude of two teams though; Quick Step and Lotto Jumbo.

The former have a couple of options for a finish like this with Trentin and Alaphilippe both good candidates. If they don’t get anyone in the morning move, then I would expect to see them pull in the hope to bring the break back.

Likewise, Jumbo have a great candidate for stage victory with JJ Lobato. The Spaniard is from a town 100km from the finish so he is fairly “local” in that sense. Tomorrow’s stage looks tailor-made for him and he certainly won’t want to pass up the opportunity.

If these teams don’t get riders in the move and begin to chase, then another couple of teams might chip in with the workload.

With tomorrow being the only chance for a “sprint” until Madrid, I think we’ll see the peloton come to the finish together. Teams will work for their faster guys in the hope that they repay the favour over the coming week.

There is of course the chance that a late attack sticks tomorrow, as things could get very hectic. Lampaert round 2?!

“Sprinters”

Lobato.

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Loves an uphill finish and he should be able to cope with tomorrow no problem. He picked up a win in the Tour de l’Ain before the Vuelta and he followed that up with a second place to Trentin on Stage 4. Arguably one of the best riders in the world on his day on a ramp like this, if he’s in form then he could be tough to beat.

Trentin.

Speaking of in form, the Italian seems to be in great shape at the moment. His stage win from the breakaway was truly remarkable and he should be up there fighting for the honours again tomorrow.

Theuns.

Chicken-smuggling extraordinaire, the finish tomorrow is right on the Belgian’s limit I think. He is climbing better than ever but after a tough day up ahead today, he might be missing something in the finale tomorrow.

Molano.

Struck down by the Haughey Curse on Stage 4, this steeper run to the line is much more up his street so to say. This is his best chance of a good stage result all race and I have a feeling that he has been saving himself for it. Could we see yet another Colombian make his mark at the Vuelta?

Cort.

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With Chaves the only remaining Orica rider anywhere close in contention for GC, will the team use up some resources to help their sprinter? A strong rider, like Theuns, the rise to the line could be on his limit. Nonetheless, if he is there, then he has a great chance given his speed!

Modolo.

Not the first name you would think of for a finish like this but the Italian can climb well when needed. Back in the Tour of Croatia he took a superb win on the closing stage on a tricky finish, somewhat similar to this. He has been a bit “meh” in form as of late but you can’t discount him.

Andersen.

A wildcard rider for a finish like this, the rise in gradient brings him into play. He was 8th on Stage 4 and he’ll be Sunweb’s go to rider here. Both of his pro wins have come on stages that are very similar to this one, with some steady climbing at the end of the day. Can he continue on Sunweb’s great season?

Lutsenko.

Even more of a wildcard, the Kazakh has an under-rated sprint and like Andersen, the rise to the line levels the playing field for him. Who knows what he’ll produce!

Moscon.

Do Sky give one of their strongest rider some freedom to chase stage glory? No one has been given any leeway so far but tomorrow looks like an opportunity where they can do something for little effort. Climbing with some of the best in the race, if Moscon lays down the Watts, not many will be able to follow!

Vuelta Picks

Another tough day where there is a chance we could see a break make it all the way.

Safe Pick – GC rider – Meintjes.

Should finish close to the front of the bunch to avoid any splits.

Wongshot Pick – Sprinter – Andersen

I really rate his chances for tomorrow! Take your pick though…

Lanterne Rouge Pick – De Vreese

Crashed today and rolled home near the back. Will probably come home safely tomorrow as well.

Prediction

The sprinters to be surprised by the difficulty of the finish and a punchier rider to prevail. Soren Kragh Andersen to take the win!

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Betting

Definitely some value out there by not going for the proper “sprinters” so I’m going to up the ante pts wise today…

Andersen 1pt EW @ 66/1

Molano 1pt EW @ 66/1

Moscon 0.5pt EW @ 250/1

Watch it be a break now…

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Escaldes-Engordany -> Tarragona

Today’s Recap

If you don’t like the Vuelta, we can’t be friends!

Quick Step decided they wanted to honour the jersey and try to keep it in the team so they controlled the break for the first 2/3rds of the day, never letting the gap grow much bigger than 5 minutes. Which in some ways was good, as neither of the lottery tickets made the move! So I decided to tweet out some thoughts and back Chaves in-play…

Once onto the penultimate climb Sky took over the pace making duties and just about caught the break at the summit. Although we did see some weird UAE tactics with Costa and Atapuma dangling 10 seconds ahead of the peloton for the last few kilometres of the climb. The break was absorbed on the descent with Atapuma now doing the chasing before all hell lot loose on the last climb.

Rosa sprinted into it before peeling off almost instantly. However, some of the GC guys were already distanced due to the difference in speed at the middle of the peloton compared to the front. Some clawed their way back to the Sky train but others didn’t.

Froome launched a vicious attack that only Chaves could follow and the two built up a 10-second or so advantage. Bardet eventually sent off in pursuit, with Aru quickly following. The Froome/Chaves duo crested the climb with roughly a 5 second gap over Bardet/Aru and a further 15 over a group of chasers.

Bardet and Aru caught up with the lead pair on the descent and the pace dropped ever so slightly; allowing the chasers to return at roughly 1km to go.

Roche put in a half-hearted dig but was closed by Chaves. However, Nibali then made a more serious effort with roughly 300m left and no one seemed bothered about chasing him initially and that was it. The Shark had his stage win!

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What a finish line photo as well!

De la Cruz sprinted to second, with Froome in third. The bonus seconds on the line see the Brit into the leader’s jersey with a trio of riders only 2 seconds behind him.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the peloton tomorrow.

The Route

A much easier day in the saddle, I’m sure they’ll be glad to know!

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There’s not really much of note apart from a Cat-3 climb to break up the very slow descent to the finish line.

Well, it doesn’t descend all the way to the finish line…

The road does rise in the closing kilometres and it is quite a tricky finale that could catch a few out.

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Having to traverse 6 roundabouts in just under 3.5km will certainly make things messy! The “climb” that you see above is more of a drag, but it averages 1.7%% for a 1.2kms, flattening out at the Flamme Rouge.

At 900m to go the riders will take the long way around this roundabout, exiting it on the left hand side.

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Almost as soon as they leave the roundabout they’ll have to make another time. This time it will be a 90-degree turn, that is made even sharper by the fact the riders are funnelled left once exiting the roundabout.

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The road then snakes for the following 200m before it takes “snaking” to the extreme at just under 500m to go.

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Possibly having to knock off their speed, if the bunch is not stretched out by now, it certainly will be after.

We then have a ridiculously narrow roundabout at 250m to go.

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Which is then duly followed up by an equally narrow exit.

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Let’s just hope the local council have done some road works or at least completed paving the finish since the google maps image was taken in 2015!

How will the stage pan out?

It should be a sprint, but given the lack of top-tier sprinters here a few of the teams might decide to have an early rest day and not pull.

I would not be surprised to see a “shock” break stay all the way to the line.

However, the one thing that is massively against the break is the constant 15km/h headwind that they’ll be cycling into all day. That definitely swings things in favour of the sprinters and because of that I’m sure we’ll see a few of the teams come to an agreement to keep the break in check.

We could be in for a long watch though!

Sprinters

Picking a sprinter for this Vuelta seems to be a minefield. We don’t really have much to go off of from stage 2, given how the race was split apart in all of 2kms. The slight uphill drag before the line also makes it more interesting but all of the sprinters here should manage it easily so it doesn’t affect things too much.

With all that said, I’ll be keeping this relatively short and sweet.

Theuns – Made a massive effort to close the gap on Stage 2 and still managed to get up for 4th. He’s clearly in great form and with Contador struggling today, he might get a few more resources at his disposal tomorrow. That is of course unless his team-mate sprints.

Degenkolb – Admitted he was struggling on the first few days but he might have rode into some form after three stages? I still think it is too early for him but this finish does look ideal for the Degenkolb of 2015.

Trentin – Another rider who is in great form at the moment and with the best lead-out he should be up there. QS seem a team full of confidence and that could just make the difference.

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Molano – The Colombian is a rider that I’ve been looking to forward to watching this Vuelta. He’s a very talented sprinter who excels on tough finishes, winning two stages in Portugal earlier this year. This is a big step up for him but the fact he was close to the front on Stage 2 is promising.

Modolo – Looks to be on good form as he was another rider who made the front split on S2. Arguably the fastest sprinter based on his wins in the past, he has a good chance tomorrow if he’s in the right position. He’ll certainly take the risks to get there.

Blythe – Not a bad start to Aqua Blue’s first ever Grand Tour with the Brit delivering a podium result on the opening stage. Can he go better? Possibly!

Cort – Might get dragged into helping his GT leaders again. So could be nowhere again.

Schwarzmann – Good lead out rider, but I don’t rate him too highly as an actual sprinter.

Van Asbroeck – Solid rider who top 10’d on stage 2 and he’ll be there or thereabouts again.

Lobato – Finish looks good for him but his positioning often lets him down. Could be great, could be awful!

Prediction

A chaotic finish that could lead to a surprise result and possibly a few nasty crashes. Consequently it might be a lottery in regards as to where everyone is positioned on the lead in to the final turn.

However, I’ve been looking forward to this stage for a while as the day that Molano really makes his mark on the pro peloton!

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Vuelta Picks

A tricky day…

Safe Pick – Trentin

Wongshot – LL Sanchez (late attack in the chaotic run in)

Lanterne Rouge – Belkov (he’s been consistently near the back every day!)

Betting

1pt EW on Molano @ 33/1 with B365

 

Thanks as always for reading, hope you enjoyed the detailed finale by pictures! Who do you think will win the chaotic sprint? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Vuelta a España 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Nîmes -> Gruissan

Today’s Recap

I should never have doubted them, should I?!

BMC win yet another TTT, being the only team to best the 16 minute mark.

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Dennis was the first man across the line so he is the first rider in the leader’s jersey of the race.

With a sprint finish likely tomorrow, there is a good chance he will hold onto it for a few days.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

A flat jaunt along the Mediterranean coastline, with a little change of direction inland before turning back towards the sea for the finish in Gruissan.

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In terms of altimetry, there is nothing much to talk about at all. The highest peak of the day is just over 40m above sea level…

It could be a fairly benign day, but the finish could cause a surprise or two.

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They will tackle a roundabout at 2.5km to go, taking the sharp left.

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Said sweeping roundabout. The riders will have to knock a little bit of speed through it and it will certainly stretch out the peloton.

Will a team then have enough firepower to keep the pace high over the next 2 kilometres? If not, there could be a lot of jostling for position with things getting scrappy.

Especially when the road narrows at ~1km to go as the riders head off the main road and towards the town.

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The slip-road only lasts for 150m or so but it will certainly be a point some of the teams will be racing for. It is much more realistic for a team to control it from there to the finish with a few riders.

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It wouldn’t be the Vuelta without some type of “challenge” in the final kilometre. Tomorrow’s is a roundabout with roughly 350m to go. It’s not too tight, but the riders won’t be able to smooth out the corner completely.

Having one man peeling off just out of the roundabout and leaving the “pilot fish” with the sprinter is the ideal tactic here. Can anyone pull it off?

Weather Watch

We spend a lot of the day travelling parallel to the coast line so of course I have to mention the prospect of crosswinds.

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Although oddly enough, the wind isn’t coming from the sea. Instead, it comes from in-land and pushing towards the coast.

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That makes it less likely for echelons early on in the day but not improbable. There are some exposed sections as we head in land though, such as this part of the D-37 as we head towards Sérignan.

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At around 80km to go, is it too early for a team to try to split it?

They will turn more into a cross-head-wind afterwards so a lot of the riders might not fancy it. But the wind direction is pretty organic, much like the teams attitudes towards crosswinds. If they sense a chance to push it, I’m sure some will try!

If we do see splits then those dropped will hope that the wind direction becomes more of a headwind to deter the teams pushing on. It will be a race to the 30km to go banner in that case as once the riders turn to home, they’ll have a stonkingly big tailwind for the remainder of the day. Anyone gapped will find it difficult to get back.

So do I think we’ll see echelons? I’m hopeful, but not overly confident.

Sprinters

We don’t exactly have a long list of guys here and a the majority of them don’t have much help. Things could be messy…

Degenkolb.

On paper he is the most experienced/best sprinter here but he hasn’t raced since the Tour. Rolling home today makes me think that he still might be finding his legs and tomorrow’s long stage could be a struggle for him this early on. Of course, he could have been conserving energy after giving his all in the first part of the TTT but the signs aren’t good.

Theuns.

If Degenkolb isn’t sprinting then Theuns will be Trek’s main man. Full of confidence after his first World Tour win at the BinckBank Tour, he looked lightning quick then. He is off to a new team so there could be some tension within his current squad but as professionals I wouldn’t expect that to play too big a part. With a lot of helpers for Contador, whoever sprints for Trek will most likely only be able to rely on De Koert and possibly Pantano. A late charge to the front à la Lampre of old?!

Cort Nielsen.

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A double stage winner last year, he certainly enjoyed his first Grand Tour. Fast after a tough, long day, tomorrow’s stage looks good for him and I’m sure he’ll be hoping for crosswinds to reduce the bunch. Although maybe he won’t, as he is supposedly on team help duty before getting his own opportunity if the Orica GC riders are safe within the last 10km. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for him with no lead-out.

Modolo – Won a sprint in Poland but DNF’d that race. He is a really hit or miss rider so who knows how he’ll go tomorrow!

Trentin – He’ll more than likely be QS rider of choice for tomorrow. If they dedicate a lead-out to him then they have a fairly strong team with several strong rouleurs to push things on for him. Looking strong lately, I think he has a good chance of a result.

Blythe – The Brit will be hoping for echelons tomorrow to reduce his opposition. A good classics rider, he should make the first split if he’s being attentive and will fancy his chances in a reduced bunch. He could struggle in a big bunch gallop though, but with it being messy he could seize the opportunity.

Lobato – Seems to be finding form again but this pure flat sprint isn’t great for him. Almost guaranteed to be dropped if the wind picks up.

Van Genechten – Just a bit of a “meh” sprinter and typifies this field we have here. Will struggle to repeat his win from last season.

Debuscherre – Will be praying for echelons as he seems to have lost his way as a big bunch sprinter this year. That lack of confidence won’t help in the slightly sketchy finish.

Schwarzmann – Arguably has one of the strongest sprint lead-outs here in terms of pure power. Often a lead-out man himself, will he grasp his opportunity to shine?

Vuelta Picks

Safe Pick – Cort.

It’s tough to choose a “safe” pick for this stage as anything could happen out on the road with possible echelons and a messy sprint. Not knowing which of the Trek riders will be sprinting, it is wise to avoid them, although I would lean towards Theuns. Cort should be sprinting and as one of the fastest here he should guarantee a top 5.

Wongshot Pick – Theuns.

On form he is arguably the fastest rider here, it just depends if he sprints or not. Hence why he is the wongshot.

Lanterne Rouge Pick – Zurlo.

Fell today so he might be tasked with doing some work early on for Modolo and roll home at the end of the day.

Prediction

Trek to take advantage of Theuns is great form just now, letting him sprint, with the Belgian duly delivering!

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Betting

1pt EW Theuns @ 22/1 with Bet365 (would take 14/1 lowest – others might actually price up higher later on)

Also for a bit of fun I’ve doubled that up Sam Bennett for the Cyclassics at 528/1…

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

BinckBank Tour 2017 Stage 4 Preview; Lanaken -> Lanaken

Today’s Recap

A sprint but a messy one, thanks to some rain and a crash in the closing kilometre. There was a big fight for control of the bunch in the final 5kms but no-one really managed to dominate but Trek and Bora definitely came out the best, keeping their sprinter in the top 20 riders at all time.

This paid dividends with the crash at the chicane which splintered the peloton. Drucker from BMC attacked, but he was eventually brought back and it was Sagan who launched his sprint first. The Slovak was strong enough to hold on until the line, beating a fast finishing Theuns and Barbier by a wheel.

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Some of the big names were nowhere; see both of the Sky sprinters, Kittel and Démare. Others were there but just didn’t have the room to sprint fully, or started from too far back. Will they turn it around tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The last of the full bunch sprint days.

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Another fairly innocuous day for the bunch though, with no major difficulties out on the route. The wind is low as well so no chance of cross winds, but we might see a few showers by the time we reach the finish which could make things more interesting/dangerous.

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As you can see, there are a lot of technical and tight turns on the run in, with the riders almost doubling back on themselves at a roundabout with 1.5km to go. If the weather is sketchy then the bunch will be stretched out during those sections and being at the front will be the safest. Everyone will know that, which in turn will make it even more dangerous.

Fortunately, there are no major difficulties once the riders have passed the final roundabout at 1.5km to go.

The final kilometre of the race is fairly simple, along a straight road. It does rise ever so slightly at a close to 1% average.

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Not much, but it does make the timing of the sprint more important as you don’t want to go too early.

Contenders

Sagan.

Can he go 3 from 3 in the sprints and really cement his GC title charge? He and Bora were exceptional today in the final 5 kilometres; always in the top 15-20 guys, but not necessarily on the front. Tomorrow’s slight drag to the line is ideal for him as well and he should be once again fighting for the win. My only concern is that on both stages he’s won, he has seemed to open up his sprint just a bit too early, being closed down right at the end when he tires. He’s got away with it both times, but it might not be third time lucky if he does the same tomorrow on the slight drag.

Groenewegen.

His team was strong today and he was another who was up there well positioned in the final 5km. However, he seemed to get a bit boxed in at the end and when he did get a run he didn’t have the power left to challenge. Maybe it was an off day and he’ll bounce back tomorrow?

Theuns.

Close today, but he started his sprint from too far back which ultimately cost him. He was arguably the fastest guy at the finish but it wasn’t enough. Trek did a great job in the finale, controlling things well in the last 5km and if they do the same tomorrow then he has a good chance. The slight drag to the line certainly benefits the Belgian, he’ll just need to be closer to the front this time!

Kittel.

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Pretty awful again today, he seems to be blaming his mental attitude after DNF’ing at the Tour. It is understandable in some ways but as a top-level sprinter you would expect more from him. At least he is honest though! Nonetheless, will that change tomorrow? Nope, I don’t think so.

Démare.

The rider who Kittel seems to be throwing under the bus with him in his tweets. Or at least that’s who I make it out to be anyway. Equally as awful today as the big German, he was way out of contention in the final 2km. His team did show some intent to move him up and he was near the front at 3km to go so I have no idea how he went backwards so quickly. It is hard to write him off (like Kittel) but after what I watched today, it is also very hard to support him for tomorrow’s stage too!

Greipel.

Another rider who Kittel could be talking about, at least the Gorilla was somewhat in contention today. He was actually in a great position coming out of the chicane, sitting in 5th wheel, but as the pace at the head of the group dropped that became his downfall. Swamped on the outside as they rounded the corner at 200m to go, he was boxed in and had nowhere to go, deciding to sit up. Tomorrow’s straight run in should be good for him and Lotto Soudal have looked like one of the more organised teams here. He should be positioned well, it just needs for him to find his killer instinct again if he wants to take the win.

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Cort Nielsen.

He was there or thereabouts again today. Orica weren’t as organised as I expected which was disappointing. They seemed to make a move up towards the front at 3km to go but some road furniture split them up and Cort Nielsen was left to go solo in the end. I maintain that they have the best lead-out train here, and if they get it right tomorrow, he has a great chance.

Bauhaus.

The Sunweb rider was right in the mix again today but he opened up his final sprint way too early. You can see in the image above that he’s pretty much full gas before the final bend in the road. He then died a thousand deaths and finished 10th. Nonetheless, his form

Others of course may get involved such as Van Poppel, Viviani, Barbier, Zabel and so on but I think it’s a fairly extensive in-depth list!

Prediction

Greipel to shake the proverbial monkey off his back and take a stage win tomorrow. Lotto have looked strong so far and I was surprised to see the German so well positioned on the technical run in. If he can stay in the top 15 riders going into the last 1km then he has a great chance on a finish that suits him perfectly.

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Betting

1.25pts EW Greipel @ 9/1 with Bet365.

 

Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow? Will Sagan make it three wins? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

Ride London-Surrey Classic 2017 Preview

After spending a few years at .HC level, the race makes the step up to WT status for 2017. A decision that I’m not so sure about as with two WT races already going on at the weekend; team’s resources will be stretched to the limit and we could see some weaker teams sent here because of it. Furthermore, it takes away the opportunity for the UK Continental teams to shine. Oh well, it is what it is!

Last year saw the race come back for a relatively large bunch sprint which Tom Boonen won.

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The Aussie duo of Renshaw and Matthews followed the Belgian home to round out the podium.

Will we see a similar outcome this year? Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders.

The Route

The organisers have slightly shortened the route for this edition, removing one of the climbs that we normally have during the middle of the race.

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Rolling out from London, the riders will face fairly flat roads with only a few minor lumps before reaching the first KOM of the day; Staple Lane.

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Uncategorised in last years race, it’s not an overly tough climb mainly due to the amount of false flat that it has. However, there are a few steep ramps and some longer sections at +5%. I wouldn’t expect it to do any damage to the peloton though.

Staple Hill does kick off the “serious” section of the race where the riders will be facing climbs every 15km or so.

Next on the agenda is Leith Hill.

LeithHill KOM

A more challenging climb than Staple Hill, we could see some of the stronger climbing teams push the pace on here to try to put the sprinters into difficulty early on.

Once over the top they’ll face a long shallow descent before the first passage of Ranmore Common.

Ranmore KOM

Another short climb, the peloton will no doubt fly up it. The gradient does get steepest near the top, peaking at 16%, which does offer a great opportunity to attack. Even more so because there are a few kilometres of false-flat to continue to apply the pressure on once you’re over the summit. The riders will then complete a loop back through Dorking and complete the Ranmore climb for a second time.

With roughly 50km remaining, the riders will face the last KOM of the day; Box Hill.

BoxHill KOM

For the professional peloton it shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but it depends how aggressive the race has been up to that point. If we’ve had some very fast racing over the previous 60km then the 3.9% average gradient might seem a little harder than it is on paper!

When off the descent, the riders will have just over 40km until the finish in London. A lot of the route is flat in general, but the road does roll quite a lot. One thing British roads are known for is being “heavy” and energy sapping. This could really be of the detriment to any group up the road if they’ve already expended a lot of energy and the peloton is chasing keenly behind. Conversely though, narrow roads make it hard for a team to organise a chase.

The finish in London itself is the same we’ve had the past few years with the sprint along the Mall.

Weather Watch

As with most races in the UK, you never know what type of weather you’ll get on the day of the event.

Looking just now, the forecast for Kingston-upon-Thames has some possible localised thunderstorms mid-afternoon.

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Source: Met Office

That could certainly make the run in for home interesting; especially with a strong tailwind helping those staying away.

However, in Dorking (where most of the climbs are near) there is no rain forecast with fairly clear skies promised for the majority of the day!

All of this can change in an instant though and I wouldn’t be surprised if the forecast is different later on this evening compared to what it is when I’m looking at it now (10:30 am).

How will the race pan out?

The past 4 editions of the race have seen a small group stay away two times, with a reduced bunch sprint deciding the winner on the other occasions.

With the race now stepped up to WT level, we could see a race where teams are more happy to control the day hoping for a sprint and to gain some crucial WT points.

The step up also means that teams are able to bring an extra rider; 7 compared to 6 the past few years. Consequently, the bigger teams have another “disposable” rider to try to control the breakaway up ahead.

Conversely though, quite a few teams bring squads where they have riders who can cover both options.

I think I’m hoping more than anything else that we’ll get an exciting, attacking race, but I fear that it could end up being a relatively dull and controlled day.

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The majority of you seem to think the same way!

Sprinters

Matthews.

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Off the back of a great Tour de France, the Aussie will arrive here looking to keep the momentum going. As one of the best climbing sprinters in the world, he might actually get his team to apply some pressure on the KOMs during the middle of the race. He’s not the fastest on a pure flat sprint like the one we have tomorrow so he needs to take advantage elsewhere. He has a solid lead-out but it’s made up of mostly sprinters so they might be a bit disorganised. His team doesn’t really have anyone that will ride tempo on the front of the peloton all day so I’m intrigued to see if they try to get someone into the break.

Greipel.

Bitterly disappointed with his performance at the Tour, he’ll be here hoping to make amends tomorrow. In this type of field he should be making it over the climbs if they’re not rode aggressively and he should be there at the finish. Is he getting past his prime and starting to decline in prowess? Unfortunately, I think so. He just doesn’t seem as fast as he used to be and that’s shown at the Giro and Tour. I wouldn’t be placing my house on him to win tomorrow!

Bennett.

After picking up a handful of podiums at the Giro but just missing out on that elusive Grand Tour win, he bounced back with two wins in Slovenia. However, he’s not raced since the Irish Road Champs over a month ago so it will be interesting to see where his form is at. A rider I rate highly, he should be able to get over the climbs in fairly good shape and will be one of the fastest guys at the finish. If he’s on form…

Viviani.

According to an interview with Doull, Team Sky are backing Viviani 100% and that the Italian is in good form. Are they that confident in him or is that a bluff? Because to be honest, I wouldn’t be confident in Viviani winning! Sky have a few cards to play if the race does become attacking, such as Kennaugh or Stannard, so maybe they’re trying to play mind games with everyone. To be fair to Viviani, he did win a couple of stages in Austria recently but the field was hardly stacked with sprinting talent; Vanmarcke came home behind him in 2nd and 3rd on those two days.

Kristoff.

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Another rider who was poor at the Tour, he did seem to grow into the race as it progressed. However, he was then involved in a crash and that put a halt to things for him. If this was Kristoff of 2014 or 2015 vintage, there would be no point in having anyone else turn up as he would have this race in the bag. Can he roll back the years tomorrow? I’m sure he’ll be doing a rain dance tonight anyway!

Aside from those guys, there are plenty of riders who could get involved in a sprint including;

Drucker – Former winner, would need some of the faster guys to be distanced. In good form at the moment, picking up a win in Wallonie.

Theuns – I’m a big fan of his and without Degenkolb here he’ll now be designated sprinter. With De Kort and Stuyven he has a strong short lead-out. Does he have the legs to compete?

Cort Nielsen – After promising so much towards the end of last year he’s been a bit “meh” so far this season. A good climbing sprinter, he’ll probably want a tough race. If he’s not there, Orica might turn to Impey.

There are others, but I don’t want to list 20% of the start list!

Breakers/Late Attackers?

There are a few names I want to throw into the proverbial hat for this section.

Naesen.

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The Belgian Champion was one of the MVPs of the Tour, working selflessly for Bardet every day. Due to how well his team-mate was going, Naesen never got a chance to shine himself but tomorrow could be that day. AG2R arrive with an attacking team, as let’s be honest, Barbier isn’t going to win the sprint. A super strong rider on the short climbs and on the flat, he should be good enough to get into the moves.

Bauer.

A rider who earned a lot of my respect during the Tour, he often found himself last man standing as support for Dan Martin. Climbing better than ever before, he tried to get into the winning break on the penultimate road stage but just missed out. Quick Step don’t bring a proper sprinter as such, although that is doing Trentin a little bit of a disservice, so they’ll be trying to animate the race as much as possible. Bauer could be the man who makes it two in a row for them!

Van Baarle.

Another rider just out of the Tour, he was also climbing well on a few of the mountain stages, helping his team-leader Uran. Much more of a classics rider, tomorrow’s route suits him quite well and he is certainly a guy who can attack in the middle part of the race. Cannondale have an aggressive team and I expect to see Van Baarle on the move at some time. Will Tour legs benefit him?

Prediction

I really hope we see an attacking and exciting race but I think there will be enough motivation behind to bring things back for a sprint.

In that situation, I’ll go for a Bennett win.

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I’ll be waiting (possibly with bated breath) for a Bauer / Naesen / Van Baarle attack though…

Betting

No real value at the top of the order and if you’re to back a sprinter it is definitely an in-play day but I might avoid that completely.

Happy to have a gamble on two of my outsiders though;

0.5pt WIN on them both at B365;

Bauer @ 200/1

Van Baarle @ 100/1

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth

 

 

Tour de Yorkshire 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bridlington -> Scarborough

Tour de Yorkshire 2017 Stage 1 Preview; Bridlington -> Scarborough

GC Overview

Like I thought might be the case, I don’t have enough time for a full GC write-up so here are some quick thoughts…

More than likely the GC will come down to the very tough final day. However, there is a small chance tomorrow’s stage will have an effect if it’s anything like stage 1 from the first edition of the race.

Nonetheless, it should be a classics type rider who does well on the final day. With the potentially windy conditions over the moors, it won’t only be the climbs that can cause splits in the bunch, but there is a good chance we’ll see some echelons too.

Having a strong team will be important and Dimension Data look to have arguably the best here. They have several handy climbers who should be there or thereabouts at the end, it just depends on who will be their leader, local rider Scott Thwaites maybe?

Team Sky have strong riders in Rowe and Stannard, but I would imagine that Geoghegan Hart is their best option due to the amount of climbing in the finale. The two aforementioned riders will be there to position him well and it will be over to the young Brit to deliver.

The defending champion and always gurning Voekcler is here again and he is sure to animate the race but I can’t see him winning the overall this time round.

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UK Continental riders such as Thomas Stewart and Ian Bibby are two other names to keep an eye on over the coming days with a top 10 a very good possibility for them both.

There are a few other riders I have in mind, but I shall keep my cards close to my chest so to speak and save them for the Stage 3 preview. 😜

As for now, I’ll go with a Geoghegan Hart win, but that is subject to change!

Grand Piemonte

Right, let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders on the opening day of racing.

The Route

An interesting day out in the saddle, with the now traditional finish into Scarborough.

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I say interesting, because it is similar to the first stage we had in 2015 where the peloton was torn to bits by the climbs. This year’s run in is easier but is still fairly demanding.

I was hoping for something similar to that first edition but according to some Yorkshire natives (@gizza_tips and @BearTowell) it’s unlikely that we’ll see that!

Out of intrigue though, I have still made a Strava profile of the last 75km that you can view here.

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The peloton has a lot of rolling climbs to contend with such as my new favourite Strava segment, “To the ice cream van!” which is the 12km, 2% average climb out of Pickering.

We then of course get the 1.3km, 9.7% climb of Goathland. Well, it’s actually ever so slightly longer than the official profile suggests and is actually 2.1km long at 6.8%.

Once over the summit, there is a very fast descent into Sleights, before the peloton start climbing again after they are through Whitby.

Another gradual rise for the peloton to get over, 7.1km at 2.3%, which they then quickly descend off before the sharp kick up of Robin Hood’s Bay.

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1.5km in length and averaging close to 10.5% (although the Strava segment is closer to 11%), riders certainly can get dropped on the climb and lose a fair bit of time. If the best climbers in the peloton attack it then they should manage the ascent in roughly 5 minutes.

We won’t see any echelon action on the moors on Friday though unfortunately as the wind is mostly a tailwind on the run in to Scarborough.

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Source: Windfinder

Will that help those dropped get back in to the bunch, or will it help a stronger peloton stay away over the closing 25kms? It will be frantic either way!

Once into Scarborough, the riders will have to negotiate a fairly technical final 5km, although from 2km to home it is easy.

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One thing the riders will have to consider is that the tailwind they had coming into Scarborough will now be a headwind for the final few hundred metres. You won’t want to open up your sprint too early!

How will the stage pan out?

It really depends on who and who doesn’t make it over Robin Hoods Bay in contact with the bunch and how aggressively the peloton attacks the climb itself. Considering the up and down nature of the race before it, the bunch could already be tired if the pace has been on for a while.

We could see some of the GC favourites and strong teams light it up, putting the sprinters in difficulty. Yet, as it has been pointed out to me, it’s the first day of the race and you would expect them to have fresh enough legs to cope with a 5 minute effort.

I think I live in hope more than anything else!

The most likely scenario is that we see a reduced sprint in Scarborough, of maybe 30-40 riders.

Contenders

Which sprinters make it to the line; that’s the proverbial million dollar question.

Bouhanni was climbing well in Catalunya and has maintained some solid form since then, with a third in Scheldeprijs and a win in Paris-Camembert. He’s not raced for a fortnight though so he’s a bit of an enigma in that sense. If he makes it over, then he’ll be the fastest rider there.

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Or is he? I’m sure fans of Ewan and Groenewegen would disagree!

The Aussie pocket rocket was flying at the start of the season but he’s not raced since his 101st in Gent Wevelgem. It’s hard to know where is form is because of that but in theory his diminutive stature should help him get over the climbs. If he’s close to where he was in January then he’ll be a threat. If not, team-mate Magnus Cort will be their sprinter.

Still without a win this season, the Dutchman will be hoping to turn that around here. Very fast on his day, he’ll be able to rely on a strong team to help lead him out. That is if they make it in the peloton together!

Some other riders that could get involved are Van PoppelBlythe, Lawless and Sanz.

There are two outside sprinters I’d like to mention.

Søren Kragh Andersen may be second choice on paper out of the Sunweb team, but I would fancy his chances of getting over the final climbs compared to his team-mate Bauhaus. I’d wrote that before the teams were finalised but it seems Bauhaus isn’t riding so it’s just SKA. Packing a solid sprint after a tough day, in this type of field he could surprise.

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Lastly, I think Baptiste Planckaert deserves a very worthy mention. The Belgian rider has settled in well at World Tour level, nabbing a few top 10 results for his new team Katusha. Much more than a fast sprinter, this type of stage looks ideal for him and I think he has a very good chance at a podium.

If we do get that attacking day I’m hoping for then look to the likes of Finetto, Bibby, Stewart, Weening and Hivert to animate the race.

Prediction

I really want to call this as an attacking day, but I’ll be sensible for once and go for a reduced bunch sprint of around 40 riders.

I’ll not be sensible with the following though…

A few of the bigger names will miss out and that will give an opportunity for someone else to step into the limelight. Planckaert to win!

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Betting

No GC bet so just stage 1 picks;

0.5pt EW Planckaert @ 22/1 with Bet365

0.5pt EW Kragh Andersen @40/1 with Bet365

Oh so tempted with the 66/1 on offer for Finetto if the race does break up, but I think I’ll leave it with the two “sprinters”!

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated. How do you think tomorrow’s stage will pan out and who will eventually be the winner? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

Paris Nice 2017 Stage 2 Preview; Rochefort-en-Yvelines -> Amilly

Today’s Recap

Sprint stage they said?! Madness ensued.

Rain and wind tore the peloton apart and we had several groups all over the road. In the end, it was Arnaud Démare who won a two-up sprint against Alaphilippe, after the latter attacked on the final climb of the day, with only Démare able to follow.

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A slightly annoying day as I had the race pretty much perfectly planned out; with it being split up in the wind; GC gaps; and a late attack succeeding. Just a shame I didn’t have the correct riders! Although I guess 2 out of the top 3 were sprinters so it would have taken something special to have the winner.

GC wise, there are some fairly large gaps now but nothing too drastic and the race is still very much on. It should certainly ensure some attacking racing for the rest of the week.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

The dullest stage of the week parcours wise and one that in theory should be a nailed on sprint.

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The run in to the line is fairly simple with no real obstacles to deal with in the final kilometres, just a few seeping bends.

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It’s practically pan-flat too, so once again the only thing that may stop a bunch sprint is some inclement weather.

Weather

Another miserable day in store for the peloton and it could be a long day in the saddle for them too. The reason I say that is because it looks as if we’ll get a cross-headwind for the first half of the day.

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Weather in Boiscommon (Source: Wundeground)

However, as the day progresses the wind swirls around and there is a good chance we’ll get some strong crosswinds at points. Will the bunch split in them? Quite possibly. As we saw today, a nervous bunch means crashes and splits.

The section from Châtillon-Coligny to the final circuit looks particularly exposed and the road travels in the correct direction for some echelon action.

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If a team really wants to split it here I think they can. Everyone will know that so the fight for position itself will be incredibly intense which in turn will cause nervousness and the possibility of crashes that I mentioned above. It only takes one person who’s on the limit to pop for a gap to be formed.

We will get a sprint of some sort in Amilly. Heck, even the peloton might regroup on the final circuit but there will certainly be some tired bodies out there!

Sprinters

You could argue that those who made the front selection today are the strongest sprinters here, and to be honest, you would pretty much be correct.

Today’s winner Démare looks in splendid form, something that I’ve said for a few weeks now but he typically goes on to win when I’ve not backed him. He’s an excellent rider in bad conditions and should make any split we have tomorrow. His lead-out train is good, not great, but good and in Guarnieri he has a very capable last man. Full of confidence, he’ll fancy his chances of doubling up.

Kittel went pop on the final climb today but that was expected. He did well to make it into the front group and will be hoping for more of the same tomorrow. Easily the fastest flat-sprinter in the world right now, he’ll relish the easier run in. Can he put on another dominant display?

DUBAI TOUR: ARRIVES FIRST STAGE

I was very impressed with the selfless work that Greipel did today at the front of the bunch. He put in a great shift and some massive turns for Gallopin and will hope that the favour will be returned tomorrow. Not with his normal lead-out, the Gorilla will have to surf some wheels but he certainly seems in good shape at the moment and I rate his chances.

Kristoff won the bunch gallop for 3rd today. Would he have beaten Démare? Who knows! Personally, I don’t think he would have as although he has 4 wins to his names so far this year; 3 of them have been against second-rate sprint opposition in Oman. He’s yet to test himself fully against the proper fast men of the peloton. I’m not fully discounting him as he is a classy bike rider, but I don’t think he’ll win tomorrow.

One rider who will be bitterly disappointed after today’s performance will be Nacer Bouhanni. The Frenchman was one of the first riders dropped in the crosswinds and that was his day well and truly over. He’ll need to turn that around drastically tomorrow if he wants to be in contention.

Groenewegen had such a non-existent day that I completely forgot about him until having a quick look at the odds for tomorrow. He’s another who could get involved tomorrow but not for me.

Away from the “bigger” names of the sprinting peloton there are two riders I would like to highlight.

Magnus Cort Nielsen is fast becoming one of the most promising tough sprinters in the peloton. The Orica rider was in the second group on the road today, doing a lot of work for the team’s GC leader. With Yates having lost a reasonable amount of time, I think the Dane will be given the opportunity to ride for himself tomorrow, even if Yates does get caught behind in a split. A very fast finisher after a tough day in the saddle, he is one to keep an eye on.

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The other is Sam Bennett. Like Cort, the Irishman was in the second group for the majority of the day but with a lack of team support his options were limited. Normally a very good rider in bad conditions, he’ll be hoping to make the first split tomorrow. Certainly not a rider to be discounted, he is criminally underrated from a reduced bunch sprint in my opinion.

Prediction

I was impressed by not only the work he did today, but also his closing speed in the final stage of Abu Dhabi. I think Greipel is on superb form but is masking it quite well just now. He should make any split and without there being any GC springboard at the end of the race he should be sprinting out for the win!

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Betting

2pts WIN Greipel @9/2  widely available (would take 4s)

0.5pt EW Bennett @ 40/1 with Betfair/PP (would take down to 33s)

0.5pt EW Cort @ 50/1  with Betfair/PP (would take down to 33s)

 

Thanks for reading as always! Do you think the race will be blown to bits again tomorrow? Or will we see a full peloton sprinting it out? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.